Homeland Security Dept. Ramps up Monitoring of Social Media

Friday, November 16, 2012
(graphic: twitspy.com)

Homeland security officials are gradually expanding their monitoring of social media websites for potential threats to the country.


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began examining social media sources two years ago, with pilot projects focused on public discussions of the Haiti earthquake, the Vancouver Winter Olympics and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


Since then, DHS has broadened its efforts by establishing a cloistered presence on Twitter. The National Operations Center uses a profile with the handle @DHSNOCMMC1, which other Twitter users cannot follow. Nor can the public find out who or what DHS is following.


Officially, the department says it does not follow individuals who tweet. Instead, officials probe for certain keywords, presumably those that might provide tips about potential threats.


Nevertheless, it says it is following 333 Twitter accounts, and privacy advocates are wary of what DHS is up to on Twitter.


“If indeed DHS is just looking at the Weather Channel’s tweets and The New York Times and monitoring media responses, I don’t necessarily know that there’s a civil liberties threat to the public in that,” Mark Rumold, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Center for Investigative Reporting. “But it’s when the monitoring is done behind closed doors in ways the public doesn’t understand I think is the real problem.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Homeland Security Office Oks Efforts To Monitor Threats Via Social Media (by G.W. Schulz, Center for Investigative Reporting)

Privacy Compliance Review of the NOC Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiative (Department of Homeland Security) (pdf)

Private Companies Pitch Web Surveillance Tools To Police (by G.W. Schulz, Center for Investigative Reporting)

Analyst’s Desktop Binder: Department of Homeland Security National Operations Center Media Monitoring Capability Desktop Reference Binder (pdf)

List of Words Dept. of Homeland Security Tracks on Facebook and Twitter (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Homeland Security Dept. Pays General Dynamics to Scour Internet for Criticism of its Policies (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

FBI Stepping Up Monitoring of Social Media (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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